Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV) is the most powerful person in Washington. His support is critical to Joe Biden on several fronts. His potential value to Republicans could be astronomical. Note: This essay was inspired by a New York Times article on Manchin.
Softball politics recently suggested Manchin should consider changing parties giving Republicans control of the Senate, and then run for president as a Republican. This suggestion is becoming a more a viable option for the lawmaker with every passing day.
Currently, the Senate is evenly divided among Democrats and Republicans, 50 each. The former is in a control position because the vice president votes when senators are deadlocked. Manchin is one of the Democrats, but he has stated that he is against enacting certain legislative initiatives unless there is bipartisan support for them.
In particular, Manchin will not vote for a bill by Democrats to battle alleged voter suppression. These would include mandates for early voting, absentee ballots, voter ID’s, gerrymandering and such. Democrats say they want to make it easier for every American to vote, while Republicans want to ensure that elections are fair without a bias towards Democrats.
By not supporting the bill, the vote would be 51 Republicans against passage and 49 Democrats for passage. The bill would be defeated. Moreover, even if Manchin would vote for the bill, Republicans could filibuster which would necessitate 60 votes for passage.
Regarding the last issue, Manchin continues to be in favor of most Democratic initiatives, but not elimination of the filibuster. It is feasible that Democrats would attempt to eliminate the filibuster so lawmakers dealing with policy issues would no longer need 60 votes, but rather only a majority for passage.
At this time, the filibuster is no longer available to the opposition for Supreme Court justice confirmations, confirmations of judges on lower courts and cabinet selections by presidents. By eliminating the filibuster for all legislation, a party that controls the presidency, the Senate and the House would be able to pass all legislation with no recourse by the opposition. Note: Bills involving taxation and the like are also not subject to filibusters.
It is likely that any number of Democratic initiatives dealing with immigration, voting rights, treaties, entitlements, redistribution of wealth, forgiveness of student loans, commerce, union rights, civil rights and so on would be very difficult to pass unless the filibuster is eliminated. Manchin is the key to this drama.
Metaphysically, Manchin’s heart is in the right place. He longs for the days when senators debated and passed legislation without the venom mistrust that exists in Congress at this time. Members would orate and disagree and have a cocktail after legislative sessions ended. No more.
Washington is partisan and members are power hungry. Manchin is risking his career trying to bring comity back to Capitol Hill. If he is successful, he should be rewarded. And the only way he can be successful is if he changes parties and forces all lawmakers to work together. Think about Manchin. He really does have all the chips and could very well be our next president.